Saturday 18 February 2017

Marriage (Not redefined)
The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is from the 1st Chapter of Genesis, which is appropriate for Anglican worshippers as the subject of marriage was debated at General Synod this week. There is therefore a wonderful opportunity for preachers to speak on this subject and give teaching and guidance, although I suspect most will want to avoid what has become a controversial issue in the Church in England, as well as in other Western nations.

A report had been prepared by their Bishops which rejected a call to recognise same sex marriage. Headlines in the press and on television claimed ‘the Church has approved gay marriage’ and had rejected the report. In fact Bishops and Laity did approve, but the clergy were in favour; except that it later emerged that some had misunderstood the voting procedure and would have approved.

Marriage is the bedrock of society, yet now long held beliefs are being challenged. Marriage lends stability to society and builds a framework which is held in high esteem. It is one of the most important aspects of our culture, the basis for family life and the home. Abraham Lincoln once stated, ‘a nation is only as strong as its homes’. Jesus highly valued marriage and performed His first miracle at a wedding
Let us turn to the book of Genesis.
When God created the world He ordained marriage, He set out in His Word how we can have the best in that relationship. Marriage was intended as a sacred religious ceremony to be celebrated before God in Church, men and women giving a promise to live faithfully together until death parted them.

Marriage was first mentioned in Genesis when God created man, and then said it was not good for man to be alone, so God made a woman to be man’s companion, and God said they should be united. Therefore, marriage is a divine ordinance; a divine creational institution, built into the fabric of human existence. It is not something that politicians like Cameron and Obama can play around with to increase their popularity; it is the creation of a setting up of divinely created order in which children can be raised. Our Lord constantly referred to the Old Testament, particularly when referring to marriage.

Matthew Henry wrote, ‘woman was made not out of man’s head to rule over him, not out of his foot to be trampled on, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, near to his heart to be loved’. The Bible states, ‘he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.’

God made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve, not Harry and Billy or Sharon and Tracy. We must accept that God knows best and when he wanted man to have a companion He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally in a way other men could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised this. God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life and together they could have children and create the ideal family. He made men and women to have a natural attraction, opposites attracting. God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children.

Most men if honest would concede how their wife has been of much help. When I was a Vicar, Olive attended every service I took, and not being one who liked the limelight, preferred to be amongst the congregation, where in fact she became very popular. People who wanted me to know something, but didn’t want to tell me directly, would use her as a communication, and I would be advised as to who needed attention and help, in addition of course to telling me what I shouldn’t have said.

So we have two people, equal yet different, no question of superiority or inferiority. They were not meant to be identical, men are generally stronger physically, more aggressive, with a greater propensity for leadership, women softer and sensitive and caring, specially equipped to be mothers, and usually live longer. In the film ‘my fair lady’ Rex Harrison playing a professor of phonetics asks ‘why can’t a woman be like a man, and gets the answer, ‘because she wasn’t created to be’. We are a mixture that complements one another.

The Bible states a man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Cleave means glued together, so the two should grow in love through the years in an exclusive commitment. As they do so they share likes and dislikes, and whilst they will have different strengths and weaknesses, each will help the other. They will find they can know the other’s feelings and often anticipate what the other is thinking. They need to trust each other and have no secrets. The wife is now the one in the man’s life who takes precedence over all others.

In the days of Henry Ford and the Model T, someone asked him to what formula he attributed his successful marriage. He said, "The same formula as the making of a successful car: stick to one model."

Marriage is a solid foundation for the bringing up of children, who are a key factor in God’s intention for marriage. I was a Police Officer in the country’s most vibrant city, and I once remarked to a Jewish Rabbi that I had never known a Jewish boy (or girl) get into trouble for anti-social or violent behaviour. I asked him what he attributed this to and he said ‘the Jewish Mama, she keeps control of her family.’ I am sure that is true, but there are many Christian mamas too, perhaps not as many as hitherto.

God intended men and women should have children, which means having a father (male) and mother (female). Children need both for a balanced upbringing and to receive the benefit of both characters in their lives. Family meant husband, wife and children. This is the ideal which cannot be attained by two people of the same sex.

Yet again the Church has been plunged into dispute by a persistent, powerful, but minority voice from the so called ‘gay lobby’. We have now reached the stage where the whole of God’s original plan for men and women has been widely abandoned. Just as in the days of Malachi described in the Old Testament, there is a spiritual decline with people forsaking God, and an alarming breakdown in family life.

Casual sex, ‘partnerships’, and recognised homosexual relationships as ‘marriage’, are contrary to God’s creation. Marriage was heterosexual, and co-habitation causes so many problems in society as many children do not know their biological father.

Politicians have now tried to replace God with their own discredited plans and decided to redefine marriage on the spurious grounds of supposed equality. People can be perfectly equal without being the same; God did this at the time of creation when he made both man and woman equal in His sight, but for different purposes.

A serious situation has arisen in that when one preaches for traditional marriage, it raises screams of homophobia. That is hysterical nonsense; we are talking strictly on maintaining God’s law above the whims of failed politicians and passing no other judgement.

We have now reached the point whereby all are expected to accept the situation and make no comment to the contrary; in other words, no alternative opinion. This has had disastrous consequences for some people here, and especially in the United States where lucrative businesses have had to be forfeited because the owners would not abandon their right to freedom of religion and conscience, granted under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which has been ignored by the Courts during Obama’s reign. (it won’t happen now though!)
David Cameron created the present chaos in the U.K with his typical off the cuff action without thinking the issue through. God created us different so children could be brought into the world, something same sex couples cannot do. Civil partnerships provided all the legal provision for people who wish to live together, and that is a matter for choice which we all accept is a personal decision.

Whilst trumpeting all this shallow talk of equality, the falsity of the man was revealed when he refused to sanction civil partnerships for heterosexual couples. So for 1% of the population (based on government figures) and for a cheap voting aim, which has backfired spectacularly, we have the time honoured understanding of marriage being destroyed.

It is quite impossible for Christians to support same sex marriage when it is recognised that this was not God intended, as numerous Biblical passages spell out. The Bible is unequivocal that marriage is heterosexual; solely man and woman; and reasoned experience has proved that marriage creates a stable structure and is the bedrock of society. The place to start is of course the Bible, which the supporters of same sex marriage want to avoid, for there is no verse anywhere in Scripture they can use to support their cause.
The male/female with one man and one woman relationship is the teaching fundamental to Scripture and is maintained from front chapter to the last in the Bible.

Politicians have caused untold hardship to many abandoned children by their stubborn insistence not only on giving two same sex people the right to adopt children, but making it illegal for Adoption bodies to refuse adoption by same sex couples. Such action resulted in Catholic Adoption agencies, which did such fine work, being forced to close down because they found it unable to reconcile such servile policy contrary to their Christian belief. Such is the government’s idea of democracy and freedom of conscience.

There is now moral decline, with moves afoot in the 21st century virtually to destroy marriage; it is as serious as that.
We must be clear as to what it is we are being asked to redefine. Today’s world is more and more treating marriage solely for emotional satisfactions.

When two people appear together at Church for the wedding service, they pledge their faithfulness to each other and there is the giving of a ring(s). The ring has no break, no ending, signifying unending love. The ring is made of gold for precious and longevity. This what God intended.

We must however remember that there are people who have no desire to marry and are content to live a (non sexual) worthy life and devote themselves to some profession or cause. Others however well intentioned have marriages which prove a failure due to the behaviour and/or infidelity of their spouse. Divorce then becomes not only an option but in many cases a necessity

I close with the words of the Cardinal Archbishop Nichols, ‘we have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations’.

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